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MayNoWriMo: Day 2

I knew my Beloved Sis was coming today, so I wanted to get a little work done this morning and clear my afternoon and evening for visiting.  I got most of the next section edited before she and Papa arrived at noon, and then I managed to finish up the polish tonight.  All previously-written sections are now pulled into the main draft and heavily revised to carry the new threads and plot elements.  Should be interesting from here on out!

Today: 1,974

Total:  7,862

7862 / 100000


Snippet:  This is part of the first section in the hero’s POV, establishing his story goal and the reason for his arrival.

As ravens spread destruction, mayhem, and death, so did Derne Nevarre expect to find nothing less than chaos at the Ravene family stronghold.  Castle Nocturna was a natural focal point of massive amounts of life energy:  for millennia, Avebury, Stonehenge, and Glastonbury Tor had cast circular waves of power out across the land, and ancient Castle Nocturna had been purposely located in the intersection of those rings.  Needless to say, Nocturna’s nexus had been at the forefront of every major British working of magic in the past thousand years and more.

The cataclysm that Lilias Ravene Slymere, Lady Nocturna, had spawned little more than a year ago had made every mage in the world sit up and take grim, even fearful, notice.

Slim, slight and deceptively vulnerable, the rogue witch he’d been ordered to assassinate sat at a mahogany desk while massive amounts of wild magic crashed about her.  Untouched.  As the mage of this famous nexus of power, she should be carefully and deliberately weaving power into the castle and lands to build her defensives; as a rogue, she would be crouched like a spider with her web spun across the wellspring of energy to greedily soak in every drop.  Instead, she didn’t draw energy at all, despite the incredible surges all about her.  Unused, the magic became more volatile and unbalanced until chaos threatened, something any sane mage would fear.  Why did she let the castle nexus run rampant like this? 

Even more troubling, why didn’t she defend herself–vehemently–as soon as a mage of his power so much as stepped foot on her land?  Let alone allow him to advance into her obviously private retreat without so much as raising her head.  However, he would be surprised if Lady Nocturna even knew he’d arrived.

So why was I sent all the way from Karnak to assassinate this “rogue?”

Power buzzed in the room so thickly he struggled to breathe.  His mage instincts trembled with the force of his concentration as he held every offensive attack he knew hovering within his mind, ready to protect himself at a moment’s notice.  Yet she made no move to strike him down.

Then she raised her face, pale and tear-stained, soft and expressive, etched with worries well beyond her years.  He felt an uncomfortable twinge in the general region of his heart.  With coiled muscles and mage powers prepared to deflect any retaliation from a deadly rogue, he suddenly felt his will falter.  Those brutal nets and clubs of power fizzled away to nothing in his mind, leaving only burning questions.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Lady Nocturna?”

“Yes.”  She pulled herself together and calmly brushed the evidence of tears away.  Firming her voice, she straightened her shoulders.  “Have I made your acquaintance?”

“No, my lady.  Forgive me, the housekeeper sent me directly, and I knocked but you must not have heard.”  Nevarre hesitated, utterly thrown adrift.  A grim cold ball of lead settled in his stomach.  He’d expected the venomous hatred of a rogue, not a woman’s tears and softness.  “I have a letter of introduction from a gentleman in Cairo with whom your father has corresponded for many years.”

He offered the letter from Lord Nedry and waited silently while she scanned the page.

“Oh dear.”  She set the parchment aside and invited him to sit before the desk.  “I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Nevarre.  My father and husband passed away over a year ago in a fire.  I have no knowledge of the book you seek.  In fact, I’m terribly afraid it may have been destroyed as well.”

The backlash of her cataclysm had rushed across the world’s power lattice like a raging wildfire devouring a tinder-dry forest.  Every mage had felt her signature:  viciously feminine, blazing with fury, fear, and betrayal.  Two men had died in her attack, and their sacrifice would have made her spell all the more powerful.  However, while every mage in the world would know Lady Nocturna simply by the barest breath of her power on the flows of magic after that day, not a single one knew the true reason why she had released such a massive, uncontrolled amount of energy. 

Anyone tapping the nexi directly during her spell could have been burned out, their mage ability seared from his mind for eternity.  What repercussions had she experienced as a result?  Or had she already been too deeply in the throes of mage madness to feel any regret at all?  Enough evidence pointed at that very likelihood–especially the previous Lady Nocturna’s grim demise–that the Magi of the Temple of Amun had called for their most skilled magical assassin to eliminate the threat before she could release another such cataclysm with even more dire circumstances.

Staring at her and studying her reactions, Nevarre couldn’t help but doubt their recommendation.  “Please accept my condolences, my lady.  No wonder we received no further correspondence from Lord Nocturna.”

“It was very sudden.”  Her delicate jaw tightened, her lips flat with strain, yet she didn’t avoid his gaze or dissemble.  “I didn’t know he was corresponding with Lord Nedry or I would have written to him myself.”

A slight tremor in her voice sent another twinge of empathy through his chest.  Either she was the most skillful liar he’d ever encountered, or she was authentically vulnerable.  Doubt held his magic in check.  He mustn’t strike until he confirmed her guilt. 

Derne Nevarre was many things, most of them dark and vile in men’s eyes, but he did not kill innocents.

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MayNoWriMo: Day 1 Part 2

A long, slow crawl tonight through another completed — but very loose and messy — section, which managed to bring my totals up considerably:

5888 / 100000

I still have one more previously written section to edit (I miscounted earlier thanks to an 00A section), and then everything will be from scratch with my handy dandy outline!

Snippet:  I’m still terribly afraid that the voice for this story isn’t quite right.  Fantasy, I keep reminding myself, not “historical.”  I’m never going to sound like a British native–and that’s okay!  I can fine-tune the dialogue and narration later once I’m steady and sure of the voice.  Here’s the first complete section — first draft only — subject to revision.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a powerful woman with seemingly fearsome abilities is quite often burned at the stake as a witch.  Lady Nocturna had regretfully come to the realization that perhaps such punishment might be justified in her case. 

The intruder now gripping her throat so tightly that Lilias could neither breathe nor scream surely regarded her as no threat at all; it was she who quivered with dread, her mind a frantic whirlwind of terror. 

With all the magics of Nocturna Castle racing to her defense, she certainly could burn her assailant to a smear of ashes, if only she dared use that birthrighted power.  Instead, she pried at the fingers squeezing her throat and in her other hand, she clutched a silver candlestick against her skirts, waiting for the opportunity to bash in the man’s head.

I swore to never kill with magic again.

Her snuffed candle smoked on the wooden floor of the Great Hall, and the only light came from the dimmed red glow of the banked fireplace.  Well after midnight, it was too late to pray the servants might hear the scuffle, and she daren’t scream for fear of waking the precious few students sleeping upstairs.

The man’s breath was hot and rapid against her face, his jaw chaffing her cheek. A blade glinted red in the banked fire’s glow and he began whispering guttural words that sliced her mind like broken glass. 

Her heart pounded so hard she feared she might lose control and reach for the crashing magic thick in the cavernous room.  A mage.  He had to be a mage intent on stealing the Castle’s power for himself.  Her stomach clenched, bile burning her throat.  There was no known darker magic than that wrought by blood. 

Power flows eddied like a mighty river around her legs, calling sweetly, begging to be used.  She could light a raging blaze in the fireplace, wrap this murdering black mage in bonds of air he would never escape, and wrest his blade from his hand without exerting a single muscle.  Salvation awaited, readily at hand, if only–

The coals glowed brighter and a tiny flame leaped with excitement.  Shuddering, Lilias pushed the thought from her mind, burying it beneath a mountain of cold stone and iron chains.  The charred ruin of the North Tower was a daily reminder of the dread weapon which she might wield; she couldn’t risk burning the entire castle to the ground with her sister and students trapped inside.

Something crashed against the window, black wings beating the air and claws screeching against the glass.  The mage jerked her around toward the threat, his voice rising with alarm but not ceasing his chanted spell.  It was only some poor befuddled bird, but she used the distraction.  She clawed backward, snagging the cloth of his shirt.  Soft linen tore.  That was certainly no coarse peasant’s shirt. 

His voice growled louder, each word slamming into her brain like a physical fist.  His face was too close to hers, so she slammed the candlestick back into the man’s ribcage.  The satisfying crunch confirmed she’d at least cracked a few ribs.  His breath whistled out and the vise of his fingers lessened on her throat. 

Whirling free of his grip, she raised the heavy silver weapon to slam into his head.  Her emotions blazed high, fury and fear feeding each other. 

He would have done worse than kill me; he would have stolen my life’s blood to wrought horrors I can only imagine.  Strike him down.  Kill him now!

The fireplace blazed to life behind her, breaking the seductive call of the magic.  The man hid his face in his greatcoat and raced for the door.  His shirt hung open, torn linen trailing like a white flag of surrender.  She glimpsed a dark tattoo at the base of his neck.  A dog’s head, she thought, but it was too dark to be sure.

The flames quieted to a soothing crackle, but she continued to tremble.  Her jellied knees dumped her to the floor, and she sat shivering before the cheerful fire that should have been nothing more than banked coals while her mind tormented her.

The fire frightened her worse than the blood mage assassin.

Memories paraded through her mind:  flames engulfing the tower, her rage blazing to the heavens, screams, and the scent of charred flesh.  Pressing her hand to her mouth, she fought down the urge to sick up on the floor.  A sound escaped her mouth.  Laughter?  Or relief?

Her mother had been utterly mad when she died.  Lilias had only been fourteen but she still remembered the crazed sounds of laughter and horror tearing from her mother’s throat.  Trembling, she forced herself to her feet.  Her cold fingers trembled so badly she fumbled the candle, smearing cooling wax on the floor. 

Mage madness ran in her family.  The villagers whispered that her father was mad before he’d died last year, that he’d started the fire himself.

If they only knew the truth, they would seize their scythes and torches and march to the castle, a mob of hatred and fear in this enlightened age of steam power and Lord Byron’s poetry.  They’d burn Nocturna Castle to the ground while shouting the word she hated above all.


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MayNoWriMo: Day 1 Part 1

I got a later start D&E this morning than I planned, thanks to a thundestorm that took out my alarm clock, but I got a good head start thanks to a few sections I wrote about a year ago and then abandoned.  They needed a lot of work, but the ready words helped conquer that “blank page” feeling.  I have one more previously-written section to edit into the main file, and then the word counts will go down considerably.  Nice start though.

3636 / 100000


Snippet:  Opening line, sure to change at least 100 times before I’m happy with it (you know how much I think openings suck and struggle to get them just right):

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a powerful woman with seemingly fearsome abilities is quite often burned at the stake as a witch.

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MayNoWriMo: Final Outline

Whew, I finally finished typing in all my notes!  The outline ended at 100 sections, 14,820 words.  I have two things I thought of that should be researched — but neither are a big deal and I can add those details after the fact if needed.

Each section has its own page in the outline, a header that details POV, location, etc. and then whatever notes I felt I should make.  For example, this is part of the opening section:

Title:  Arcana
Day:  pre-1
Scene:  001
POV Character:  Lilias (Lily)
Additional Characters:  assassin
Location:  Nocturna Castle, Great Hall
Approximate Time:  Midnight

Someone tries to kill Lily as she makes her nightly walk from the library through the Great Hall. [more details]

Then for each section, I have a line in the “Daysheet” spreadsheet so I can quickly see where I am in the midst of days/scenes.  Here’s a short snippet of Arcana’s daysheet, color coded by POV so I can make sure I have a good balance.  e.g. I don’t want 100 pages to go by without a certain POV showing up.

Day Scene POV Total POVs for Character Scene Title
Pre-1 1 L 1 Midnight Assassination
1 2 L 2 Hysterics
1 3 N 1 In Search of a Book
1 4 L 3 Surging Magic
1 5 V 1 Sisterly Spat
1 6 L 4 Boring Country Dance
1 7 A 1 Taunting the Raven
1 8 N 2 The Sleeping Guardian


I didn’t include as much detail in this spreadsheet as I did for the Maya story.  I don’t expect to “salvage” as much of Arcana’s first draft, so I don’t need to track revised second draft section vs. brand new section.  Everything is going to be brand new, although I will gain a little in the morning by using some revised sections I started a year ago and then abandoned.

I won’t post the whole character sheet online, but this is a sampling of the information I have for each character, in particular, Nevarre, the hero.

Personality and Background

Greatest Strength:  Honor.  Once his word is given, he keeps it, even if the holder of his oath proves less than trustworthy.

Greatest Weakness:  Once his oath is given, he continues the path, even when it’s apparent the path is wrong and dishonorable.  He’s been led into dishonor in the past because he refused to back down from his oath.

Personal History

As a powerful young mage, he was squired with Hugh of Grimsgate along with several others. Hugh was a hard man with shaky political motivations that changed on a dime, but by the time Nevarre was old enough to understand his master had questionable loyalties, he’d already given his own oaths. Hugh fled to Palestine, taking his knights with him. Their families left behind were punished for their crimes and Hugh told them they could never go home or suffer the same fates. Nevarre was devastated.

Dishonored through his leader but sworn to loyalty, Nevarre can do nothing but fight in the Crusades as directed, holding to his word. Events worsened in Palestine. Lured by promises of gold, Hugh joined a secret sect of the Hashshashin (assassins) specializing in magic (dedicated to Anubis) and plotted to take his knights with him.

To join the Hashshashin was to die. Literally. Hugh betrayed his own Knights, took them into a battle where they were slaughtered to the man. In a bloody ceremony of death, they were raised to kill. They gained power from killing, bringing souls to Anubis.

Nevarre didn’t mind killing the guilty or to enforce justice.  If Saladin were assassinated, the Crusades would be over, or so he believed.  If other enemies to the Church were eliminated, lives would be saved.  He was already dead, after all, and could do some small good for his people.  However, the assassinations against Saladin failed with vicious retaliation.  Hugh abandoned them and secretly returned to England.


Un-dead and trapped in Palestine, Nevarre went mad for a time.  He killed his way out of a prison and roamed the land until he came to the Temple of Amun in Karnak.  Their Archmagnus claimed he called Nevarre to join the Magi.


In Karnak, Nevarre learned of Great of Magic, the Egyptian Goddess protecting the Sun.  Humans failed him, forced him into dishonor, yet he hoped that service to the Goddess would truly give him a higher purpose.  He has nothing left.  No honor (even broke his oaths to the Hashshashin), no country, only his magic and the dreams of the snake goddess.  It is She who sustains his life, now.


He has served Her and the Magi for hundreds of years.  To fail is to die.  Part of his oath is to put Great of Magic above all, especially other women, so he remains celibate.  His heart beats, his body lives, but his soul holds a great debt against it.  To fail Her–or love another–is to surrender his soul.


Obviously those above paragraphs are *all* backstory and won’t be directly in the story.  However, these details are crucial to who this character is, and the torments through which I should put him in the story.  All  major and secondary characters got a character sheet, most between 4-6 pages long.  I have one more minor secondary character I want to do some work on — I think she’ll provide the comic relief.  Hopefully I’ll flesh her out while drafting and then polish her afterwards.


Well, my wrists are killing me and Dark & Early will come very, very early tomorrow.  Let MayNoWriMo begin!

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MayNoWriMo: final prep

I ended up editing all of my character sheets again yesterday, as well as creating a new one for the secondary character I mentioned.  I also revised the setting sheet for the castle to give it more character and detailed its long, impressive history.  I clarified the conflict between the two major groups of magic practioners.  I tracked all the new little themes and details all the way through the outline in multiple passes, making notes by hand on the pages.

Today, I will sit with the outline and daysheet open, and then make the final pass.  I’ll transcribe all my notes into the main file, and sync it with the daysheet to reflect any new scenes I decided to add.  I’m sure to break 100 sections for this story. The outline is sitting at 12,327 words right now (including the section heading on each page detailing POV, setting, etc).  I bet it’ll break 15K by the time I add all the notes I’ve made this week.

After that, the only thing left to do is print everything out and update my binder, and try to hit the sack early tonight.

I’m setting the goal of finishing this revision by June 30th.  I know that’s probably at least 100K in two months, but my production always goes down in the summer.  I need to get this story done and then sit back and relax through July and August, working at my leisure on worldbuilding the new sci-fi stories and polishing Arcana, getting it ready for submission.  I did finish Return to Shanhasson for NaNoWriMo by Christmas (I think 104K), so this should be doable — if a bit insane.

Yes, I started sleeping in my wrist splints again and have a nice stash of Caribou Coffee.